Gamescom 2013


So…it has been more than half a year since my last post here, but I hope I will put out some stuff in the near future. I have a little project in my head and I want to at least share the ‘design document’, but hopefully I will turn it into an actual project to post about. Also there is this small C++/DX project I did at University and I want to post one or two things about it and probably even a executable build. But first I will write about my recent trip to Gamescom 2013 in Cologne. (Pictures don’t relate to the text, just some nice looking statues)

An enemy from Destiny, the new game by Bungie

Day 1: Wednesday Aug. 21st

Due to studying Computer Science: Games Engineering I was able to visit Gamescom as a Trade Visitor, which meant access to the Business Area and also to the Entertainment Area earlier than Private Visitors. The Business Area was kind of a letdown, since most booths were closed to the general public and you were only admitted with an invitation. There still were some games you could not see in the Entertainment Area, but not playable, sadly.

Being able to visit the Entertainment Area on Wednesday was a whole different story. You could actually move around without having to elbow your way through thousands of people and the queues at the booths were actually reasonable. After a quick round through the complete fair grounds, I went to the PS4 area, since that console interested me the most.First, the controller. The Dualshock4 is a great improvement on the old design. It is bigger and more ergonomic and with the rougher surface it handles really nicely. The sticks are are responsive as ever and with the convex shape there is next to no chance of accidentally letting go of them (although I never had that problem with the earlier PlayStation controllers myself). The L2/R2 buttons also are convex now, so no slippage there either. Didn’t have the chance to really test the little touchpad in the center of the controller, since none of the games I tested made use of it (at least as far as I was aware), but I can at least say that it doesn’t interfere with the overall usability of the controller. I did take a picture of it, but sadly the folks at Sony don’t want me to publish it. If I hadn’t been there as a Trade Visitor, I wouldn’t have been allowed to even keep the picture.

The most prominent game in the PS4 booth was Assassins Creed: Black Flag. I was able to play a short segment including both a naval battle and an open fight with some guards and an officer to assassinate. There were some changes to the sea battles (most notably the swivels that you now don’t aim yourself, you just hold the triangle button), but it still is great fun to sink ships and shoot forts to pieces. You can now seamlessly change from captaining your ship and walking around on foot (as long as you are not engaged by enemy ships) by simply letting go of the wheel, and after killing the two enemy ships and the fort’s defenses you do just that in order to stick your swords (yes, plural) into some enemies. I haven’t seen much change to the combat system, unless you count the number of pistols, or to the movement. It is still undoubtedly an Assassins Creed game. There was some freezing issue with carrying bodies, but I am sure these will be resolved until launch.

There were some other games I played, but none of them really sparked my interest much. The ones I remember were Warframe (solid action game, nothing special to report), DC Universe (iirc…meh), Blacklight Retribution (Ego-Shooter, nothing more, nothing less) and some arcadey fighter plane game (didn’t like the handling…the best I can say about it is that there is no SixAxis on PS4 anymore).

Three more interesting games that were not playable were at least shown by Sony employees. inFamous: Second Son looks nice, but I never had much interest in the inFamous series. Also I already saw the section shown in an earlier video and the playstyle and used abilities were similar (if not identical). The second game was Killzone: Shadow Fall. Graphics are really good, but if it wasn’t SciFi I don’t think it would be something for me. It is a more or less standard Ego-Shooter. The OWL-Drone is nice, though. The highlight of the demonstrated games was Watch_Dogs. This game might be a definite buy for me. We were shown how one of the cTos centers are taken over by the player (it is a bit strange that your hacking doesn’t work in the sector controlled by the center, but it does work inside that center itself…should that not be guarded more than the surrounding?) and how you can then use your profiling software to predict criminal acts and then interfere, if you want to. The player also had to escape the police after a shop owner alerted the cops after seeing a report about us while we were shopping and later he was hacked by another person (an actual player, not unlike the multiplayer seen in Demon’s Souls or Dark Souls) and had to track him down and finally killed him.

Wolfenstein at Bethesda's booth

Of course I didn’t only visit Sony, so some other games: Seen a bit of Elder Scrolls Online. Looks like an Elder Scrolls game, but I am not really interested in the online-part. Also the subscription is a huge letdown for me. I wished they’d adopt the Guild Wars method of monetization. On the bright side, spears and pole-arms are back. Another game I had a look at is Microsoft’s Project Spark. I don’t have any interest in the new XBox and ignored just about the complete Microsoft booth, but this should be released for PC, too, so I didn’t completely sold my soul. It looks like the game took the best part of Spore (the user generation of content) and expanded it to the point, where there is little else to the game than content creation. The tools the player gets look like they are quite easy to use, so beginners can put out some sweet stuff, and the scripting might be deep enough for advanced players to create impressive little games, but it is also quite limited from what I saw. There are some templates that can be expanded and modified, but no complete freedom to do what you want. The palette of games shown was still impressive. There were action-adventures, flying games, a Geometry Wars clone (that even looked like Geometry Wars), all created using the tools provided by the game.

Lastly I had a good look at X-Rebirth. I absolutely love the X-series. Space games with a daunting amount of depth, but they are really hard to get into for newcomers. This new iteration of the series will be easier to pick up, but does so by sacrificing some of that depth. It was specifically stated that this is not X4, but a separate game in the same universe/storyline. For one, the player can only pilot a single ship that can be upgraded. Other ships can be bought (including capital ships), but are piloted by AI. Also these upgrades are quite linear, so no modifying the ship to make it into a freighter or a scout ship, it always is a fighting ship (if I had to compare it to one of the ship-classes in X3, I’d say it looks like a M6). SETA is out, the new system for quick travel are so called ‘highways’ that you can enter or leave at any spot along that highway. When you are close to a capital ship, your ship will automatically match that ships velocity, so you will always stay with it and your input only moves you relatively to the capital ship. But it still feels like a X-game. You can build your own stations and create intricate economic cycles. Sectors now are complete solar systems, with multiple planets, connected by highways, but you can also freely explore the complete sector yourself, from the central body to the asteroid belts. Stations are now massive, more like whole cities in space than individual buildings, and are made up of separate parts and systems that can be targeted and destroyed individually. That last part is also true for capital ships. You can destroy turrets, shield generators or engines. Sadly I have no information on capturing ships at all. And while you can’t pilot other ships, you have drones that you can directly control to fill specific roles, like collecting resources or attacking. Another nice feature is the ability to explore stations and ships you are docked to and also your own ship, and meet people on these stations/ships. You can talk to them, recruit new pilots and station managers or accept new missions. Most of the stuff that was managed with tables and menus in the older games is now controlled by talking to NPCs. There still are some menus and also some shortcuts for impatient people, though. If you are expecting a linear improvement of X3, you might be disappointed, but I still think it will be a great game.

Titan with moving head

Day 2: Thursday, Aug 22nd

My second (and last) day on Gamescom was exhausting. As Trade Visitor I was admitted to the grounds at 9AM (1h before the Private Visitors). I walked the grounds one more time and then went to have breakfast at Games/Bavaria in the Business Area. By then the doors were open for everyone, and the building was quickly filled with too many people. That Activision gifted Prestige Editions of the new Call of Duty for PC to the first 500 people at the booth didn’t help, either (at 9:02 there were already about 1000 people there, but then it was revealed that Trade Visitors wouldn’t get one). Every meter was a fight against a never ending stream of bodies and I quickly withdrew from all of it into the Business Area where there was at least air to breathe. I was quite glad when I could return to the bus and try to sleep on the way back home.

If I visit Gamescom again, I think I plan better what to see and when, and probably only go there for the first day, where there are only Trade Visitors there.

Chocobo at SquareEnix


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